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History of Rescue Company 1


Firefighter William R. Fletcher on February 3, 1925

Firefighter John C. Farragher on July 12, 1962

Firefighter Edward J. Tuite on October 17, 1970

Captain James D. Rogers who succumbed to a personal illness on December 20, 1994

Captain Terry S. Hatton on September 11, 2001

Lieutenant Dennis Mojica on September 11, 2001

Firefighter Joseph Angelini Sr. on September 11, 2001

Firefighter William Henry on September 11, 2001

Firefighter Patrick O'keefe on September 11, 2001

Firefighter Michael Montesi on September 11, 2001

Firefighter Gerard Nevins on September 11, 2001

Firefighter David Weiss on September 11, 2001

Firefighter Brian Sweeney on September 11, 2001

Firefighter Kenneth Marino on September 11, 2001

Firefighter Gary Geidel on September 11, 2001

Rescue Company 1 was officially placed into service on March 8, 1915. Prior to their inception, New York City firefighters had faced tough fires in commercial and residential buildings as well as ship and subway fires. Firefighters at these jobs were hampered with difficult forcible entry situations because of the lack of tools regular ladder companies were carrying. Most if not all firefighters did not have breathing apparatus available to battle fires that involved heavy smoke conditions.

One such fire occurred at the Equitable Building in 1912. Employees were trapped behind the bank windows which had two-inch steel bars in front of them. Because of the limited forcible entry tools, the arduous task of removing the bars took an hour and fifteen minutes. Firefighters used hacksaws to remove the steel bars.

Another job firefighters had a difficult time battling the red devil was on January 8, 1915. A subway train caught fire between stations creating a heavy smoke condition. There were approximately 700 civilians that were overcome by smoke. The services of a company that could compliment an array of tools and breathing apparatus was severely needed.

The F.D.N.Y. needed a company that would be able to handle and operate at serious fires such as these. Not only would this designated company be the first heavy rescue unit in the F.D.N.Y., but the entire United States.

Rescue Company 1's first captain, John McElligott was chosen by Chief John Kenlon. Chief Kenlon was also given the task of assembling the membership of Rescue 1. Chief Kenlon chose Captain McElligott as the company commander because he was very pleased with the Captain's work, dedication and work ethic to get a rescue company started in the F.D.N.Y.. Captain McElligott was the first rescue company member to test the draeger mask; the only form of breathing apparatus at the time.

The F.D.N.Y. was now looking for firefighters to be assigned to this new unit. Firefighters that had knowledge in mechanics, engineering, electrician work, as well as other special trades were given preference. These members that were selected were then given extensive physical exams.

The final cut was made. Eight firefighters, one lieutenant and Captain McElligott were chosen to man Rescue Company 1 and were detailed to training school in which the members were trained in using specialized tools and first aid.

Rescue 1's first rig was a 1914 Cadillac touring car. It had limited storage compartments. Some of the specialized equipment carried by Rescue 1 were Draeger masks, the lyle gun, rigging equipment, life belts, a cutting torch, jacks, a pulmotor, an extensive tool kit and a first aid kit. Rescue 1's first firehouse was at 42 Great Jones Street in Manhattan. They shared the firehouse with Engine Company 33.

During Rescue 1's first year, they did not respond to first alarms but were available if special called by the incident commander. They're responses included 2nd alarms south of 59 Street and 3rd alarm south of 125 Street.

The helmet frontpieces of rescue members were assigned the color. Firefighters frontpieces had a blue background with a white number. The rescue officers would would have white frontpieces with a blue number. The rescue company captain's frontpiece would have two lyle guns above the number while lieutenants would have one.

Rescue 1's presence came in handy on during their first year of service on September 22, 1915. This was one of the first major operations R-1 would operate at. A subway tunnel under construction caved in killing and injuring many people which also sucked in a passing trolley on the street. Because of the outstanding work being performed by R-1 members, the increasing population of NYC, the number of incidents R-1 was responding to and they're nature, there was a need for more companies like it. Rescue Company 2 was established and headquarted in Brooklyn and subsequently Rescues 3, 4 and 5.

On February 3, 1925, the first member of Rescue Company 1 to die in the line of duty took place. The fire was located on Fifth Avenue opposite St. Patrick's Cathedral. Firefighter Wiliam R. Fletcher succumbed to smoke inhalation.

Rescue 1 operated at a sub-cellar fire on Park Avenue and East 57 Street in August of 1932. The fire originated in a paint vault which exploded during fire department operations. The fire became known as the "Ritz Tower Explosion". Eight members of the F.D.N.Y. made the supreme sacrifice operating at this fire.

In 1939, Rescue 1 received a their new rig that was built by Ward LaFrance.

On February 9, 1942, Manhattan companies battled a fifth alarm at Pier 88 at West 48 Street on the Hudson River. Pier 88 was the birth of the French cruise ship Normandie. One person was killed and 300 were injured which included many firefighters.

In August of 1943, Rescue 1 members received their first fire-ground radios. They were the first portable radios issued to firefighting units. These radios earned the name "handi-talkie" because of its ease of communication at an operation.

In July of 1945 an Army B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building because of dense fog in the NYC area. Because the crash occurred on a Saturday, there weren't as many people inside the building.

On March 18, 1946, R-1 took part in tests involving different kinds of breathing apparatus. The F.D.N.Y. chose Scott masks and R-1 was assigned six masks to be used in a pilot program.

In 1946, Rescue 1 Captain Green operated and directed the rescue of several firefighters that were trapped in a tunnel beneath a building that was involved in fire. Pavement breakers were used to gain access to the trapped firefighters. Captain Green was later awarded the John J. McElligott medal for his actions. Ironically, the medal is named after Rescue 1's first captain.

In 1954, Rescue 1 received a new tool; the O'Brien Rotary Cutter's purpose was to cut through heavy pier decking and heavy wood flooring. It was powered by electricity.

On October 1, 1956, Rescue 1 was assigned their first mechanical resuscitator.

In 1959, Rescue 1 received a new rig. It was built by Gertsenslager on a Mack 'B' model chassis. This rig replaced their 1948 Mack.

In April of 1960, Rescue 1 moved to 33 West 43 Street where they would share quarters with Engine 65.

In December of 1960, two commercial airliners collided over Brooklyn killing 134 people. Rescue 1 was special called into Brooklyn to assist. Three days later, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a fire at the U.S.S. Constellation claimed the lives of 50 shipyard workers and injuring 385 people. All five rescues operated at this fatal fire. It is said that the most daring and difficult rescues ever made by the department were made at this job.

On July 12, 1962, Firefighter John C. Farragher would succumb to injuries sustained while operating at a Manhattan 4th alarm. The fire was in a five story loft that eventually collapsed due to the heavy fire conditions.

On October 17, 1966 12 firefighters made the supreme sacrifice while operating at Manhattan 5th alarm at West 23 Street and Broadway. The fire was located in the basement of a drug store. The first floor collapsed without warning into the basement. This fire is known infamously as the "23rd Street fire".

In the late 60's the Partner Saw was placed in the hands of Rescue 1. This new tool which could be utilized in forcible entry as well as roof ventilation was a must have. At this time, the saws were only assigned to rescue companies.

On October 17, 1970, Firefighter Edward J. Tuite was the third Rescue 1 member to die in the line of duty. Firefighter Tuite was on the roof assisting in operations. He stepped on boarded area that covered a shaft. Firefighter Tuite fell into the shaft and succumbed to his injuries.

In 1971, Rescue 1 received a new rig. The Mack 'R' model chassis was placed into service and replaced their Mack 'B' model rig.

In 1972, Rescue 1 was assigned the Hurst Tool, also known as the "Jaws of Life". This tool was designed for auto extrication, subway accidents, and other emergencies.

In 1973, Rescue 1 received a concrete core cutter. The tool would be used to cut through concrete floors and walls.

In 1975, Rescue 1 operated at the Telephone Company building fire. The fire originated in a sub-cellar at East 13 Street and 2nd Avenue. The fire extended rapidly to the upper floors. There was also a heavy smoke condition because of the burning polyvinyl chloride insulation. The smoke was extremely toxic. Many members of the F.D.N.Y. that operated at this fire began to experience several illnesses that were caused by breathing in the toxic smoke.

On August 2, 1978, F.D.N.Y. would again be hit by a fatal fire involving its members. The fire was in a Waldbaum's supermarket on Avenue Y and Ocean Avenue in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Members were operating on the truss roof when it suddenly collapsed. Firefighters worked feverishly by breaching walls to reach the trapped members. Six firefighters made the supreme sacrifice.

Rescue 1 received their new apparatus. It was built by Pierce with a Mack 'R' model chassis. This rig was similar to the one that it was replacing. The minor difference was that it was slightly larger and higher.

A large pier fire and to this date the largest took place in July of 1981. The 800 foot pier known as Pier 58 had a heavy fire condition below and was inaccessible to units. Rescue 1 used their pavement breaker to expose the fire to the engine companies. Because of the difficulty in getting water onto the fire which involved the underside of the pier, the F.D.N.Y. organized an in-water firefighting team to handle such situations. Rescue Companies 1 and 2 were assigned these tasks. In 1983, Rescue's 1 and 2 were officially designated and were available to respond to water jobs.

On January 23, 1985, a fire took place in an eight story warehouse adjacent to Rescue 1's quarters on West 43rd Street. There was a heavy fire condition through-out with incredible radiant heat. Without a doubt, this fire is considered one of the most spectacular fires to occur in the City of New York. This fire ultimately reached 10 alarms which is equivalent to two fifth alarm assignments. This is known as a "borough call" response.

Rescue 1 was operating at another box and was not in quarters at the time of the fire. Two tower ladders were set up to protect the firehouse from the intense fire condition which was now consuming the entire warehouse. Through the strong efforts of the firefighters, the warehouse eventually collapsed onto the quarters of Rescue 1. The collapse which went through the roof, completely destroyed the firehouse.

The only piece of the firehouse which stood well was the firehouse door. The firehouse door was re-constructed and placed in the back of the new firehouse built at the same location which re-opened On April 29, 1989. This firehouse door is a "main attraction" to fire buffs around the world as well as the story behind it.

In April of 1985 a commercial helicopter crashed at East 34 Street in the East River. Rescue Company 1 responded and deployed their divers into the water. Firefighter Paul Hashagen, donned in scuba gear swam towards the submerged chopper. Firefighter Hashagen rescued two occupants that were still strapped in. Firefighter Hashagen was later awarded the Chief Tuttlemundo Medal for his rescue.

In October of 1986, another chopper fell out of the sky and landed in the Hudson River off of West 44 Street. In a similar fashion to the crash in 1985, Firefighter Hashagen donned his gear again and jumped into the water. Hashagen located the pilot and quickly brought him to the surface. Firefighter Hashagen was later awarded the Thomas E. Crimmins Medal and Rescue 1 received a unit citation for their actions.

Rescue 1 received their new rig in the Spring of 1987. The rig with a Saulsbury body and Mack MC Chassis replaced their Mack 'R' model rig.

In 1988, Rescue 1 was issued a thermal imaging camera. The 'EEV' which was similar to that used by the U.S. Navy was an electronic device used to detect heat such as body heat and that of a fire.

Rescue 1 moved into their final firehouse at 530 West 43 Street. Their response area is from Battery Park through 125 Street on the west-side and 116 Street on the east-side. Their response area consists of every type of building which includes high-rises, lofts, tenements, theaters, taxpayers, brownstones, row-frames, and automobile parking garages. Both East and Hudson Rivers which house numerous piers and heliports are also in the response area.

Rescue 1 is part of SOC (Special Operations Command). SOC, is under the command by a chief officer, who is in charge and is responsible for the five rescue companies, seven squad companies, the marine units, the TAC units, and Haz-Mat 1.

The members of a rescue company are not just assigned. For a firefighter or officer to get assigned to a rescue, he or she must go through an interview with the captain of the company. The member will then go through a trial period in which he will be evaluated on many fire and emergency situations and tools. At the end of the period, the captain will then make the decision on whether or not to accept the member as a rescue firefighter.

The members of this elite unit are not only professional firefighters, but are capable of operating at building collapses, rigging, shoring, confined space operations, elevator rescues, subway and train incidents,automobile accidents for use of their Hurst Tool for extrication, and dive jobs (SCUBA). The members of R-1 are HART (High Angle Rope Technician) certified. This is used during scaffolding emergencies or any high-angle rescue. R-1 also responds to aircraft emergencies at LaGuardia and Kennedy International Airports. The members are trained for shipboard firefighting and many are haz-mat certified.

Rescue Company 1, one of five elite rescues in the FDNY, are capable of performing various kinds of tasks at operations. The equipment that is carried on the rig consists of a wide variety: The HURST System, Maxi-Force air bag system, Low Pressure air bags, Oxy-acetylene MAPP Gas, Explosivemeter MSA, Oxygen Indicators, CO meters and tubes, Gastech GX-91 and Dynamation meters, Geiger Counter and Dosimeters, Thermal Imaging Cameras, The Stanley System, a Chain Saw, Pavement Breakers, Circular Saw and accessories, Air Hammers by Paratech and Ajax, the Cobra Hammer, the Hilti Hammer, Scott Ext., and Air Cart System, Rescom Communications Ropes, ROCO High-Angle Rope equip., Griphoist for rigging, a Winch, an A-Frame and Light Tower, Trench Jacks and Z-Irons, Leak Sealing Kit, KED, SKED, and Long boards, and a Stokes Basket for patient transort, High-Rise Kits, Exposure Suits for pier fires, SCUBA equip., the Lyle Gun, the TAC Stick, the Ramset/ Hilti-gun, Ring Cutter, Whizzer Saw and Sawzall, first-aid equip., and resuscitators, electric comp., and Generators, an inflatable boat for water operations, an Oxygen Cascade System, Air Shores and Air Struts, Tripod and Rollgliss Kits, Air Nailers, Switlick Platform and Sled. This is only a glimpse of what the rescue rig carries. There are also many hand tools, such as forcible entry tools and other big pieces of equipment I have yet to list. No wonder why the rescue rig is called The Big Tool Box and the firefighters and officers of the five rescue companies are elite! As im pretty sure you see, whatever the problem, Rescue will have the tool for it....

Many of the firefighters and officers of R-1 are members of the FEMA/ USAR team and have been involved in such operations as the Oklahoma City Bombing, the bombing at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, the Humberto Building Explosion in Puerto Rico in November of 1996, the Ice Storm of 1997 in Upstate NY, and Hurricane Georges, which devastated the islands of Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.